For this portfolio I will be putting focus on an important word that is fitting in life that we are living in, in the university setting and particularly in our field of medicine as a study and career. Back in grade three while in a piano lesson, every time I played a wrong note I would start from the top and play the whole piece again as that was the way I was taught to practice by my parents of the Taiwanese discipline – everything had to be perfect.
My teacher stopped me after my third round and said, “Jimmy, you are not a robot. It is okay to make mistakes and move on.” I didn’t agree with what she said because to me it was an excuse us human beings use to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. At that time, I thought, “Perhaps, this is what stopped humans from evolving further.”
Sometimes making mistakes is so unbearable I could kick myself. Self-doubt would surface and I would start to think that I am not as good as I think I was, in whatever I was doing at the moment. To the point where I would say that I was stupid. I understand that in the long run, this destructive way of thinking would be my downfall as I really am only human and can only take so much beating from myself. So I started to reflect and through self-reflection I came to realize many things, which I will write about as I go through this reflection piece.
While I type this portfolio I may have backspaced more letters than I have typed but it doesn’t bother me because it is a small task to correct compared to the outcome of this piece of writing. However, the most recent mistake that I made and felt had a big impact on me, is the counting of ribs on an X-Ray film. As a medical student we are taught to read X-Rays, however, if I were to give an excuse I would say that I was out of practice and have had little exposure. But to me that wasn’t good enough, so I asked my fellow colleagues to bring me back up to speed and it is something I will never forget again. I was embarrassed at myself that day and still cannot shake off that feeling. How can I be a good doctor if I couldn’t even remember something as trivial as that?
From the moment we wake to the moment we sleep we are constantly making mistakes. We either look past them as they may be insignificant and does not hinder us from moving forward, or it could make our entire day turn sour. A daily reflection at the end of the day before one sleeps could help minimize the number of mistakes we make for the days to come and ultimately help us make peace with what we did during the day or at least give us a better night’s sleep in preparation for the next day.
Now that I’ve grown a little, I start to understand my teacher’s and many people’s insights in that we are not robots – as human, mistakes are a part of us. As I paraphrase Einstein, if one was to never have made mistakes, one must have never tried anything new. This is very true, as only when we move away from our comfort zone, only when we try to make a breakthrough and only when weopen our minds to new possibilities will we be able to achieve new things or at least, to come up with new ideas. It is through this trial and error that human kind has progressed to this stage. Now, I realize that perhaps it is the reluctance of admitting we are wrong or admitting to our mistakes that hinder our growth and evolution.
To modify Edison’s quote, I have not only made mistakes, I have found countless approaches in looking at the problem. There are many theory and skills one gets taught and sometimes one has to go through by one’s self to become the competent service provider the world wants us to be and it is impossible to have gone through them without mistakes. I always get upset when I get something wrong in an exam, but if everyone was to know everything all three hundred of us would get full marks. Point is, at least through mistakes I am getting closer to the answer and to compare it to trigonometry in high school – I got to see a 2D drawing in a 3D way.
We all know that when observing one’s methods we can calibrate some aspects of the person. Mistakes I have made have taught me what kind of person I am, my personality, my way of thinking/thought process, how flexible I am to adjustments and what I see as mistakes also shows what kind of person I want to become. This is one more way to get to know myself better. In doing so, it is a step closer in self-improvement, in self-confidence and in having control of one’s self. As Bram Stoker, the author who wrote Dracula says, “We learn from failure, not from success.”
At the end of the day, like learning many things we first have to understand it or wrap our head around it. Once that part is done, to accept it the way it is, and then if we can, to change it or to better it. We have to understand that we make mistakes and we also have to understand why we make mistakes. We then have to understand the nature of the mistake, the way we make mistakes – take it apart and analyze it critically. Then it is time to say that it is okay to make mistakes. It is okay that ‘I’ make mistakes, it is okay that ‘anyone’ can make mistakes, it is okay to make that ‘kind’ of mistake as one would say, “It happens to the best of us” and it is okay to make that mistake again. Finally, we can ask ourselves, “What should I have done? What would I have done differently? What can I do now?”
It is through mistakes that we know that we still have space to improve and it is through mistakes that give us the drive to keep achieving. It is also through mistakes that helps us not only to understand ourselves better, not only to learn more about the things that interests us but to understand more about the people around us and the society that we live in. So that we can show the human side of ourselves, our understanding that becomes our sympathy and empathy and our acceptance and gratitude which are very important attributes as a medical practitioner.
I wished I had come to this realization earlier in my life and perhaps one day when I look back and read this reflection piece I will have more to add from experience and knowledge. It is a milestone that serves to show how I have matured, and what I still need to go through not only to become the doctor I want to be but also the person I want to be as a whole.